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Israel Gaza: Ceasefire talks resume as Rafah comes under fire

Legend,

More than a million people are gathered in a small corner of southern Gaza

Negotiations for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have resumed in Cairo, Egyptian media say.

Top officials from the United States, Israel, Egypt and Qatar are meeting as Israel faces intense international pressure to stop its bombing of the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

Around 1.5 million people are crowded into this small border town, fearing an Israeli ground offensive.

Benjamin Netanyahu said “total victory” was possible in Gaza within months.

He then ordered Israeli troops to prepare to expand their ground operations and vowed to defeat Hamas gunmen hiding in Rafah.

But UN human rights chief Volker Türk said any attack on the city would be “terrifying” and many civilians “would likely be killed”.

Rafah has come under heavy Israeli airstrikes in recent days, causing deaths and injuries.

Video caption,

Watch: How Rafah became home to 1.5 million Palestinians?

Discussions in Cairo continue despite Israel’s rejection of Hamas’ conditions.

Mr Netanyahu sent his intelligence chief, David Barnea, to the talks to try to make further progress – Israeli media said he did so under US pressure.

He is accompanied by the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, Egyptian intelligence officials and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

A framework for a temporary truce is on the table, involving the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and a period of calm.

Qatar and Egypt, with support from the United States, have gone back and forth between Israel and Hamas to try to broker a deal.

Israel says 134 hostages are still missing out of 253 captured by Hamas-led gunmen during the October 7 attacks on southern Israel. A number of hostages have been freed, most recently two Israeli-Argentinians, but some have died.

At least 1,200 people were killed in attacks carried out by Hamas.

Israel launched military operations in the Gaza Strip in response to these attacks. Some 28,473 Palestinians have been killed and more than 68,000 injured in Gaza since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

More than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents are now crowded into Rafah, on the border with Egypt, which was home to just 250,000 people before the war between Israel and Hamas.

Many displaced people live in makeshift shelters or tents in squalid conditions, with limited access to clean water or food.

Alongside the United States, a number of countries and international organizations have warned Israel against launching its planned offensive.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Monday that Israel should “stop and think seriously” before taking further action in Rafah.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Israel’s allies to stop sending weapons because “too many people” were being killed in Gaza.

And on Tuesday, South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to examine whether the planned Israeli offensive required additional emergency measures to protect Palestinian rights.

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